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University of Mobile Business Students Learn Value of Volunteering in Hands-on College Course

University of Mobile senior Ashley Shelton learned a valuable lesson in her Students in Free Enterprise business class.

“Just a few people can make a huge difference,” said Shelton, president of the university’s SIFE team.

She is one of about a dozen students at the Christian university who volunteer at Dumas Wesley Community Center’s food pantry, a project of Ashland Place United Methodist Church. It was while helping collect, organize and distribute food to the 60 to 100 families each week that rely on the pantry that students realized there was also a need for clothes, shoes and blankets.

They applied for a grant, renovated a room at the community center and transformed it into a clothing donation center. Each Thursday from 10 to 11:30 a.m., UMobile students staff the Clothing Closet and work in the food pantry.

SIFE sponsor Amy Gatlin Taylor, assistant professor of business and economics in the UMobile School of Business, said the point of the SIFE class is to give students an opportunity to use the business skills they have learned and apply them in a real-world scenario.

“We use these business skills to develop outreach programs that help improve the quality of life and standard of living for the people in need in our community. This course in an extension of our university’s ongoing commitment to Christian service,” Taylor said.

Other projects the entrepreneurial students are doing during the school year include a Hope for the Homeless clothing drive, hosting a fundraiser and volunteering weekly at the Dumas Wesley food pantry, holding a Christmas party at a senior center, working with Keep Mobile Beautiful at an electronics recycling event, and coordinating the School of Business portion of the university-wide Project Serve day of volunteering in which more than 100 college students washed vans, trimmed bushes and cut grass, cleaned rooms, repaired and updated the organization’s computers, and entertained senior citizens.

Davis Pilot III, graduate assistant in the UMobile School of Business, said a $1,500 grant from the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Project Partnership helped the students renovate the room at the community center. St. Paul’s Thrift Shop in Daphne, Ala., donated hangers and clothing racks, and students gathered donations of clothing from UMobile faculty and staff, among others.

“The Clothing Closet is still in its infancy, and already we can tell that it is going to make a difference. Coupled with the food pantry, the Clothing Closet will allow low-income families to have extra money to spend on things that can improve their quality of life and increase their standard of living,” Pilot said.

Kate Carver, executive director of Dumas Wesley Community Center, 126 Mobile St., said the center had received sporadic donations of clothes, but there was no time, money or manpower to oversee a clothing closet.

“As soon as the University of Mobile students knew there was a need, they ran with it. Everyone has been so kind and so professional, and they are really passionate about what they are doing. I’ve been really impressed with the way the program has turned out,” Carver said.

In addition to weekly hours open to the public, the Clothing Closet maintains a special relationship with the adjacent Sybil H. Smith Family Village, a transitional housing program that helps homeless families establish and maintain self-sufficiency. Residents often arrive at the Village with little more than the clothes on their backs.

“Your old suit may be the missing piece to helping someone land a job, earn a living wage and support their family,” Carver said.

The University of Mobile SIFE program is part of a larger worldwide effort to build a network of business professionals and industry leaders to create positive change in communities through business principles.

SIFE was founded in the United States in 1975 as a non-profit organization and has expanded to become the premier business and higher education network with operations in 39 countries around the world. In the U.S., nearly 600 active universities with more than 20,000 student participants present the results of their projects in regional and national competitions evaluated by business leaders who serve as judges.

Last year, UMobile’s new SIFE team was named Rookie of the Year and first runner-up in their category in regional competition. This is the second consecutive year the university has offered SIFE as a class.

Weston Mason, a senior accounting major and vice president of UMobile’s SIFE team, said, “As a SIFE member, I am humbled to witness the work God has done and will continue to do through this clothing closet.”

For information about the UMobile SIFE program, contact the UMobile School of Business at 251.442.2409 or email ataylor@umobile.edu. For information about Dumas Wesley Community Center programs, call 251.479.0649.

The University of Mobile is a Christian university located in Mobile, Ala., on an 880-acre campus near Gulf Coast beaches. Approximately 1,800 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Christian Studies, School of Education, School of Nursing, Center for Performing Arts and Center for Adult Programs.

For more information about the University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.

Ashley Shelton, senior business management major
in the University of Mobile's 5-year integrated MBA
program, gives the new Clothes Closet a coat of
paint.

                                         Photos by Ashley Shelton
Davis Pilot III, graduate assistant in the UMobile
School of Business, works on the SIFE project.

SIFE students Emily Jennings, Rachel Jemison and
Franck Nshamam are among a dozen UMobile
students who made the Clothes Closet possible.

Photos of the completed Clothes Closet that UMobile
students staff each week.


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